Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 13

Published: 8 Apr 14

A Special Place--Part Thirteen--Matt

When Luke came through the window for our morning run, he didn't call so I was awakened by a kiss. As I opened my eyes, I looked into the face of my beloved. "Good morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul," Luke said as he brought his lips to mine. His beautiful eyes were a sparkling sea of blue as I wrapped my arms around his neck and drew him down to me. "Do you want to run or stay here and make out?" he laughed.

"You know what I want to do, but I suspect I need to piss, brush my teeth and hit the road."

"One of these days...."

"Yea, but if you don't let me up, you're going to have to shower to get rid of the shower I'll give you." I hopped out of bed, ran across the hall and just barely made it.

Soon Luke and I were running down the road toward Michael's. Before we had gone very far, Michael came running out of his house to meet us. When we reached the end of David's pasture, Luke said, "Let's try a bit further, we can always walk back. After another half mile, we turned around and ran back to Michael's. When we reached his house, he continued with us until we slowed down and then turned back and ran home.

Since it was Monday, ordinarily I would be going to St. Mary's after school and Luke would go to school with David or Gabrielle, whoever was driving Mary Kathryn. Luke was really doing well, but was not yet up to biking to school. However, I needed to talk with Mr. Smith about the recital and would not be going to St. Mary's until later to clear up any problem or confirm the date Fr. Tom suggested. Luke, of course, had to talk with Mr. Stephenson about the exhibition and the possibility of letting it count for his final grade so I told Luke I would pick him up for school.

When I came in from running, Mom had breakfast well on the way so I quickly showered and dressed for school--baggy pants and loose shirt--braided my hair and dashed downstairs.

"Big day today," Greywolf said. "Teachers to deal with and Gabrielle tonight. Son, I want you to know that you and Luke are very much in my thoughts and prayers today--not that you aren't everyday--but especially today."

"Sarang Hanun Pomul, my Sarang Hanun Pomul, I wish I could make life easy for you, but I cannot. Just know you are loved and your Yonghon Tongmu is loved as well," Mom said as she hugged me.

Our breakfast conversation then turned to the usual topics: school, where Luke stood in getting his work caught up, the prom, etc. As soon as we finished breakfast, I hugged both my parents and kissed Mom on the cheek. "You don't know how much you have done to make my life easy already and you'll never know how much I thank you and love you," I said, then grabbed my backpack and went out the door.

When I reached Luke's, he came out of his house, jumped in the Jeep, leaned over and kissed me. "Luke, what do you mean?" I asked. "We are in your driveway, for heaven's sake."

"Matt, Gabrielle knows or will know tonight. If she sees us now, what difference will it make? Besides, I needed a kiss."

"Well, you better make that one last because today is the big test as to whether or not we can appear n-o-r-m-a-l. Did you ask Gabrielle about our talking with her tonight?"

"Of course I did."

"And she said?"

"She said, 'Great, I was going to suggest we have a talk soon anyway. And you want Matt here?'"

"And you said?"

"I said 'Yes.' and she said, 'Fine.' And that was that. Since Dad is not home she suggested you come to supper and we'll talk afterward."

"Luke, you think I can eat with that hanging over our heads?"

"Matt, you could eat on your way to the gas chamber if Gabrielle had done the cooking."

"Well, you're probably right, but I get nasty butterflies in my stomach just thinking about what your parents will say and do."

"Me too, that's why I try not to think about it."

Luke's attempted suicide was old news at school. The latest girl fight, what was on MTV, who was cheating on whom, who was being screwed by how many--the usual high school gossip and lies occupied talk time. The most common comment made was something like, "Hey Dude, glad to see you," obviously said by those who didn't know Luke very well. Girls who knew him well gave him a kiss and the boys slugged him on the shoulder, both without comment.

Since Luke and I were practically siamese twins from the day we were born, the fact that we were always together today was no change. A couple times each of us did reach out for the other's hand only to remember or be reminded where we were. All in all, we at least thought we were acting perfectly normal. Of course there was one time. When we were headed to the cafeteria, Luke grabbed me and pulled me into a stairwell and planted a quick kiss on my lips. I was scared shitless, but there was no one around.

When we got to lunch, the usual gang was already there: Mary Kathryn, Michael, Paula Wright. Paula, Luke and I were seniors and had been close school friends since grade school. Since she lived as far out in the country on the other side of town as we on our side, so we were just school friends, seldom seeing each other except in school. Linda, a sophomore along with Mary Kathryn and Michael, used to be a member of the "Select Few," but she had been dating Orion Greenley, super jock and all around jerk in my book, so she ate with him. Sheldon, who had dated Paula for a long time, was a junior who had moved out-of-town while Luke was in the hospital. Paula was still pretty broken up about it. So far as she was concerned they were still a couple, just separated for awhile. So the lunch gang who had done all the speculation about Luke had dwindled down to only one who wasn't aware of what had gone on and what was going on.

Luke sat down and said immediately, "Look, Gang, I know you are all curious about why I did something as stupid as attempting suicide, but I just want to tell you that I thought I had an unsolvable problem and when I learned that there really was no problem, it was almost too late. I almost didn't make it. Thank God, Mom came home early and found my note, Matt knew where to find me, and David, Michael's Dad, and the EMS team got there quickly and knew what to do, so I made it. Let me tell you, life is glorious! Regardless of the problems you have or think you have, don't ever give serious thought to killing yourself. You may not be a failure as I was. Find someone to talk to or something. I am getting things sorted out and feel more alive and am happier than I have ever been, but I could just as easily have been dead. Subject closed?"

"Wow," Paula exclaimed. "I think that is a speech you need to give to a lot of teens. I suspect most have at least thought about suicide at one time or another. I know I have, but usually the problem of the moment passes or someone intervenes or something. But, ok, subject closed."

"Hi, Select Few," I recognized Linda's voice although I could not see her because she had walked up behind me. "Can I join you guys again?"

Turning around, I said, "Sure, but where's super jock?"

"Ok, you guys have been my friends since forever and I sorta deserted you when I started dating Orion. I should have known with a name like Orion and being called Orie by his mother I was in big trouble so I guess you deserve an explanation. No, that's not it, I need to talk."

"Talk. We were just discussing how important it is to talk out things when you walked up."

"Yea, by the way, Luke," Linda said, "I'm glad you failed at least at one thing in your life. Know it's your affair and I have no desire to pry, but I'm sure as hell glad you got yourself rescued. You are too kewl a kid to end up in the ground. Anyway, I need to tell Select Few what has been going on and why I am ready to deball a jock!"

Linda was obviously on a tear.

"Orion Greenley's mother and my mother have been friends since high school. Over the years, they have tried to get the two of us together, but we were generally involved with someone else. Unfortunately, it turns out, both of us had broken up with someone a couple months ago and were free. Orion called me one Saturday night and asked me to go to church with him. I told him I couldn't because I was serving the altar at St. Mary's Sunday. Needless to say, he didn't have the foggiest idea what I was talking about, but asked about my going to their youth group Sunday night. I figured St. Mary's group wouldn't miss me, so I said 'Yes.' I must confess I had a great time. It was just like St. Mary's youth group except they kept praying for people to get saved, naming names. I half expected my name to be called, but it wasn't. Aside from that, I really enjoyed myself. I especially got into the rousing hymns because St. Mary's was in the middle of Lent and Matt, you have to know the hymns are terrible during Lent."

I nodded agreement, knowing that this was not the time to discuss liturgical music and that it wouldn't make any difference because the ball was in Linda's court and she was running with it, hell-bent for leather.

"Anyway, Orion was the perfect gentleman. After church, we went to MickeyD's and then he drove me home, walked me to the door, told me he had enjoyed the evening and said goodnight. I don't kiss on the first date, period, and expected to have to set him straight, but he simply said good night and left. He called me again and asked me to go to church with him Wednesday night. I have a 'no dates on school nights' rule and told him so."

"When I hung up the phone, Mother asked who had called-- She always does, do your parents do that to you? I hate it. When I told her 'Orion', she wanted to know what he wanted and I told her. She then turned to Dad and said, 'Herman, that nice Orion Greenley, Shirley McIntosh used-to-be's son has asked Linda to go to church with him Wednesday night. Don't you think that might be all right even if it is a school night?' Dad isn't overly fond of Shirley McIntosh Greeley or her husband and the socialite crowd, but he knew Mama so he just grunted."

I told you once Linda got moving there was no stopping place.

"Mom said I could call him back and tell him I could go so long as I got my homework done before we left and I got home by 10:00. I called him and he said he'd pick me up at 7:15 and that church should be over by 9:00 at the latest since it started at 7:30. Now, Matt, I know what you're thinking: 'Something must be wrong if church is going to last an hour and a half,' but it almost did. We got out at 8:55, did the MickeyD's drive through and then drove out into the country somewhere. It was a beautiful spot, a bluff overlooking the river. The night was unusually warm for the time of year and the moon was full...."

I remembered the warm moonlit night, looked at Michael and Mary Kathryn and winked and they both blushed. I'm glad I don't have a monopoly on that. Linda had not slowed down.

"Orion had borrowed his uncle's convertible so he put the top down when we parked, got some nice music on the radio and we were just enjoying the evening. He put his arm around me and we cuddled. I must admit I enjoyed it. When the announcer said it was 9:45, Orion leaned over and kissed me and then said, 'We better go. I don't want you to get in trouble or me to be declared off limits at your house.'"

"Well, to make a long story short...."

"At this point, I don't think it's possible, Linda, my friend," I was tempted to say, "I think it's too late already," but knew I couldn't get a word in edgewise.

"He called Thursday and asked me to go inline skating Friday night and to dinner and a movie Saturday night. Of course, church Sunday night. I had made it plain that I would be at St. Mary's Sunday morning and, besides, I could take being asked only so many times if I had been born again or washed in the Blood of the Lamb--gag, what a gross picture that paints in my head. Anyway, we did all that, and church on Wednesday. Afterwards we usually went to the place above the river and parked. I admit that we were beyond a kiss at the end of the night, but certainly not into what I would call heavy making out. He was moving fast and I told him he better slow down, and he did--I thought."

"Well, Mom was very pleased that I was finally dating Shirley McIntosh Greenley's son and lifted the 'no dates on school nights' rule, even though I had not asked her to. She told Shirley that at their bridge club two days ago and Orion called that night and asked me out last night. 'Nothing special, just dinner then maybe a drive in the country.' Fool like, I agreed and he picked me up at 7:30. We went to Pizza Hut and ate pizza, then drove to the spot above the river. When we got there, he took a blanket from the back seat, spread it on the ground, took out a small bottle of champagne, two glasses and two candles and placed them on the blanket with a rosebud in a vase already! It was damn romantic. "

"Well, after a glass of champagne, I was feeling the effects of the bubbly and didn't drink any more. Orion did. We were making out a lot more than we had ever done before, but still within my bounds. After he finished the champagne, he got really aggressive. Kissing, even frenching sometimes is permitted. Getting your hand in my bra and pinching my nipple is definitely off limits. He started telling me how much he loved me and if I loved him I would show it. Paula, Mary Kathryn, I suspect you know the whole routine. I did like the guy, I liked him a whole lot and thought that I might fall in love with him, but I wasn't in love with him and only someone I love is going to pinch a tit and he better be easy with it! Then the asshole pushed me back on the blanket and started french kissing me so hard I couldn't keep his tongue out of my mouth. I was ready to bust him one when he shoved his hand in my panties. By this time he had left the 'if you love me you'll put out for me' and gone to the 'you know you want this as much as I do' routine. When he said, 'Linda, you know you want this jock's big cock in your pussy,' I let him have it. I was taught a trick by old man Stenson, my last year's English teacher. A guy was messing around with a girl in the hall and old man Stenson said to her, 'Does your leg work like mine?' as he bent his knee and brought it up suddenly. When the girl said it did, he said, 'Aim for the spot between his legs. He will probably leave you alone after that.'"

"When Orion raised up to take his pants off...."

"He was taking his pants off!!" Mary Kathryn was horrified.

"I had a perfect shot and performed the Stenson manoeuver! Orion was suddenly rolling around on the ground, clutching his crotch and cussing like crazy. The sweet, mannerly church-going boy was reduced to a whimpering pile. When he recovered enough to get up, I told him to take me home. I started to insist on driving even though I don't have my license yet, but I realized he was not nearly as drunk as I thought. He wasn't so drunk he didn't know what he was doing. He knew exactly what he was doing. Anyway, when we were still several miles from home, he turned into a side road, parked the car and started again. Finally he said, 'You're gonna have to trade pussy for transportation,' the old 'put out or get out.' Again he tried to kiss me and slipped his hand in my panties. I shoved him off of me, opened the car door and got out. He drove behind me telling me all was forgiven and he would take me home. I ignored him and walked about a mile to a farmhouse where the people let me use the phone to call my Dad."

"He was ready to kill Orion and Mama kept telling him there must have been some mistake or maybe I had lead Orion on because she knew Shirley McIntosh Greenley's son would never push himself on a girl. Dad finally had enough and shouted at her, 'Your damn socialite friend's rotten son tried to force your daughter to have sex with him, and you defend him! I'd not be surprised if he didn't end up raping some girl who can't defend herself. Some mother you are when you defend the son of a bitch that tried to force your daughter to have sex.' Mama shut up then, but panicked when Dad picked up the phone and asked her for Shirley Greenley's number. He called and got Mr. Greenley and told him, 'Your son tried to rape my daughter tonight. Fortunately, she is a better jock that he, so he failed. If he so much as calls here or says anything to her or about her, I will charge him with sexual assault. He is over seventeen, I believe, so he'll be charged as an adult. Do I make myself clear?' and hung up the phone. Mama almost had a litter of kittens, but she knew better than to cross Dad at this point."

"Then the dumb jock came over to me just now, tried to put his arm around me, and said, 'Linda, I am really sorry about last night. I was too drunk to know what I was doing.' I took the jerk's tray, pushed it in his face and reminded him that all I had to do to put his ass in jail was to call Dad. So that's that. If you guys will have me, I'm back, have learned a lesson and just wish he had. But he hasn't. So no jock, no prom date and a lot better off."

"Glad you kept the story short, Linda, but you may just be the answer to my prayer. See, Luke and I have a major problem here. We would like to have dates for the prom but we're in love...."

I heard Luke choke on his drink, then cough and spray half the table with fruit punch. He was finally able to say, "Sorry, I just got strangled," as we all helped clean up the mess.

"As I was saying before Larsen decided spray us with fruit punch, Luke and I don't have prom dates because we're in love. We each met the person of our dreams at a kinda special swim meet not long ago. We soon found we were madly in love, but there's an age difference in Luke's case and a racial difference in mine--it is best--well you know what would happen in this small town. But, Linda, since you have just lost a prom date and are not likely to accept should the jock ask again, how about being my date? We'll have fun, I promise no moves on you beyond a goodnight kiss since it will be our last date so we can call it that instead of our first so you don't break your rule."

Linda laughed, "Don't get me wrong, Matt, but you weren't what I had in mind originally but I would be delighted to be your date for the prom and no strings attached before or after."

"I guess I am just left out in the cold," Luke said, pitifully.

"Since I am still Sheldon's girlfriend, I'm without a date because he's not able to come back for the prom. But it doesn't matter since as you all know, my mom is really having a hard time since Dad died. She gets a small social security check for me until I am eighteen which is very close and makes a very small salary where she works. She is paying for school so she can get a better paying job and trying to put some money in savings for my college. Maybe one of these days the insurance company will settle--I don't know what the problem is--and she will have it easy, but I sure can't ask for money for a prom dress and all that goes with it. Otherwise, Luke, I'd make you the deal Matt just made Linda."

"Ok, we've got a problem to solve, maybe. Luke, do you accept Paula's offer?" Mary Kathryn asked her brother.

"I would be deeply honored to do so," Luke got up and made a sweeping bow. "Accepted with great delight."

Obviously, Michael and Mary Kathryn were going as a couple, so most of the old gang, was going to be together for the prom.

Just before the bell rang, Mr. Gray the principal came on the intercom and announced that all members of the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion Ensemble should report to the band room as soon as the bell rang ending lunch. "Teachers, I will announce when their meeting is over and they have five minutes to get back to class," he concluded.

Mary Kathryn said, "Linda, Paula, we have a problem to solve. We've got to get Paula a prom dress and I don't mean going to a thrift shop either, but I guess we'll have to get together later since you have a meeting, Paula. What's that all about?".

"Beats me. We were supposed to start working on a spring concert today, but surely that wouldn't call for an extra meeting. Probably some silly request that we do two concerts when hardly anyone comes to the one we do. You'd think more people would show up for something other than football and basketball, but I guess that's just the way it is." Paula was a member of the mixed chorus and was well known for her excellent soprano voice. When the bell rang, Paula said to Mary Kathryn and Linda, "I'll catch you two right after school and we'll look into this prom dress problem."

When the three girls left, Michael could hold it no longer. He was ready to burst from holding in a laugh. "Future Brother-in-Law, I thought you were going to have a heart attack there for a minute. You should have seen your face when Matt started talking about the two of you being in love. And Matt, you need to be a lawyer. Not a thing you said was a lie, but everything Paula and Linda heard was an out and out lie. Brilliant."

"Of course it was brilliant. I always am."

During physics, the next class, Eugene and Paula came walking in just as Mr. Gray announced the meeting was over. "I suspect everyone is curious about your meeting so you might as well tell us so we can get along with class," Dad said.

"Eugene, I guess you'd better tell them. I'm still too pis... mad to talk."

"Well, it seems that a regional marching band festival is to be held at Independence. As a result, Mr. Smith will not have time to work with the ensemble or chorus for a spring concert. Seems even football and basketball music takes precedence over everything else."

"Well, if I know you and Paula, you could direct your own groups and still do a spring concert," Dad said. "Give it some thought."

By the time the words were out of Dad's mouth, I had an idea. "Eugene and Paula, could we get together soon? I have an idea."

"You can have the time right now if it's important and related to the chorus and ensemble."

"Mr. Greywolf, could we step into the hall for a few minutes?" I asked Dad.


When we got in the hall, I told Eugene and Paula about my recital. "It's scheduled for May 21 at five in the afternoon at St. Mary's. That's six weeks from now. The program is not complete or set in stone. I would be happy to change it if the chorus and ensemble would be interested in being a part of it. Paula, you could direct the chorus. Eugene, if you could direct the ensemble, there are some really splendid pieces for organ, brass and percussion. Additionally, I am composing two pieces which would be great with added chorus and brass and percussion. What do you think? There'd be a lot of new music to learn in six weeks."

"Matt, you know the mixed chorus has the best voices this school has to offer. We work very, very hard to be good and you see how we are appreciated. Plus, if we gave a concert, maybe a couple dozen people would show up. I'm sure the chorus would welcome an opportunity to perform AND the challenge the music would offer. There are a couple guys who also could conduct should I be needed for a solo. They have done that before. I'll talk to Mr. Smith next period and get the chorus together immediately after school... actually some of them have to ride the bus. I'll see if Mr. Smith will call a meeting for the last ten minutes of school. How soon can you get me music?"

"I'll have enough in the morning to keep you busy until I get the rest. How about you, Eugene?"

"I'm sure the ensemble feels the same way as the chorus, but the three best horn players in the ensemble are also in the marching band and I don't know how Mr. Smith would feel about them playing the ensemble and not the band. Otherwise, I think we could handle it."

"I have to talk with Mr. Smith about the date for the recital since he hasn't approved it yet. I planned on seeing him last period. Could you two meet me there then?"

"I have music last period anyway so I'll be there. How about you, Paula?"

"I have Hard-as-Nails Greywolf for senior English," Paula laughed. "I'll just say her that her bitty baby boy needs me and I'm sure she'll excuse me."

"Don't be too sure. She frequently says 'no' to her bitty baby boy," I laughed. "Ok, it's settled, we'll meet with Mr. Smith last period."

As soon as the bell rang for the last period, I went to the band room. Eugene was already there and had told Mr. Smith we wanted to meet with him. He said he'd let the student director take over as soon as roll was checked. Seems kinda strange that a student can take charge of a class but can't legally check roll. About half-way through the roll, Paula walked in. "I told you Hard-as-Nails couldn't refuse something for her bitty baby boy," she grinned.

As soon as he competed the roll, Mr. Smith turned the class over to the student director and came into his office where we were waiting. "What can I do for this distinguished trio?" he asked.

"First, I need to check a date with you. I'd like to schedule my recital for Sunday, May 21 at five in the afternoon--at St. Mary's of course. Luke Larsen has to mount an art exhibition this spring and St. Mary's has offered to host both events on that date."

Mr. Smith checked his calendar and said, "Well, since I don't have to do anything to prepare for it except shower, shave and get dressed, that's fine with me. I have nothing scheduled that whole week since the regional marching band festival is the weekend before and I know I'll be ready to bury when that's over. I got that sprung on me by Mr. Gray when I walked in the door this morning. I don't know how long he had known about it, when, where or why he issued the invitation for it to be here. I guess I just work here. But anyway, we'll do a good job hosting it, I'm sure. Now Paula, what's your and Eugene's problem or problems?"

"When Matt heard that the spring concerts for the mixed chorus and brass and percussion ensemble had been scratched, he suggested we might take part in his recital," Paula responded.

"Well, the whole problem with the spring concerts is that I simply do not have time to put them together and work with the chorus and ensemble with all the extra work this regional marching band festival is going to create. Sorry."

"Mr. Smith, I can handle the chorus with Ron Johnson's and Alex Smith's help. Eugene can handle the ensemble."

"There's no problem then with the chorus, but the ensemble takes three of the best horn players out of the marching band. I like the idea you three have come up with, but I don't know."

"Mr. Smith, will taking three horn players out of the marching band make a big difference? The ensemble simply cannot do without them. Why not let the three decide which they rather do?" Eugene was almost pleading.

"I suppose you're right. I know the ensemble is a better indication of this music department and, God knows, we need all the support we can get to even keep music education in schools. So, yea, you present the situation to the horn players and I'll abide by their decision. Now that leaves only one more, kinda sensitive, problem. Matt, I believe you indicated in your proposed plan for your independent study that you would include a religious service, something called Evening Prayer or something like that, as a part of your recital. Now, so long as the recital involved only you, that was ok since a part of your plan was to demonstrate your abilities as a church organist. Is that still part of your plan?"

"Yes Sir."

"Well, I am sure you are aware of the fact that some members of the chorus and ensemble are not members of your particular faith. Some are not Christian. Some, I suspect, are not anything. What about that?"

"Well, since we only came up with the idea of providing an opportunity for the chorus and ensemble shortly after lunch, I hadn't even thought of that. I guess that is a problem. I'm sure Fr. Tom would be willing to drop Evening Prayer and just do the recital/concert. I could call him right now or check tonight. I guess we'll just have to eliminate the service. I'm sure Fr. Tom will understand."

Eugene said, "I'd sure hate to have you do that, Matt, since it's so much a part of who you are and, really, it's your recital. You were just providing a chance for the chorus and ensemble to perform before an audience who would really appreciate us. I'm not an Episcopalian--in fact, I'm not anything--but I'd sure hate to have you cut out the service."

"Look, when we do the Christmas--I beg your pardon the winter concert--the chorus program always has a statement that the music does not reflect acceptance by the participants or school of the tradition out of which it comes. Why couldn't we just put something like that it the program for the recital and concert? I'm Jewish and I'd be happy with that," Paula suggested.

"Well, I doubt that the nit-picky administration would think that was enough. It would be ok for those attending, but since students are involved, it could be seen as coercion. I don't think just a note on the program would be enough. What are your thoughts Matt?"

"I'd like to kinda stay out of this, if you don't mind."

"Look, Mr. Smith, we get permission slips from our parents for everything from field trips to mixed classes in sex education to going to pee when we want to. Why not a permission slip for members of the chorus and ensemble? After all, there is no grade involved in this, right? So if a student or his parents don't want him attending evening prayer or whatever, they can just not sign," Eugene suggested.

"Eugene, that just might work. I'll write a permission letter before I leave school today and try to run it by Mr. Gray if I can catch him before he goes running out well before the last bell--forget I said that. I'll e-mail it and an explanation to the superintendent and the chairman of the school board as soon as I can get him to approve it."

"Could you, please, really rush that, Mr. Smith? We have a lot of music to learn in six weeks. We'll have to do some rehearsals after school anyway and that's a problem for kids who live in the country, ride a bus and don't drive. Plus, we'll have to get together for some rehearsals at St. Mary's," Paula urged..

"The ensemble will have to do some rehearsing at St. Mary's as well and we could have transportation problems, so the sooner we know the better," Eugene added.

"I'll just go right now and talk with Mr. Gray and tell him I'd like his approval before I send the permission letter to the central office, but I'll have to have it today. That should put some pressure on him to stick around awhile. By the way, kids, I may seem to have put some blocks in your way, but I am really delighted that you are willing to take on the responsibility for this undertaking and I am positive it will make Independence High School look much better than a marching band will. Eugene, have the three horn players see me before they leave today so I can give you their decision."

"Thanks, Mr. Smith," we all three said as Paula and I left.

"Matt, remember to get me something to work with pronto," Paula said.

"I'll see that you have a hymnal and a Book of Common Prayer tomorrow morning. I'll also have some of the pieces for the recital. I do know that I want you to start work right now on Gounod's 'Sanctus'. Do you by any chance...."

"I know what you're going to say, and yes, I do have the CD of Jessye Norman's called 'Sacred Songs.' I love that piece. I know it by heart, but I don't have the music."

"You will in the morning--copies for the whole chorus. Man, I owe you and Eugene big time, even if we don't get to do this."

"We owe you too because we really felt cheated out of a chance to perform to maybe 25 people. Now we will have a chance to really shine and have someone to hear us."

"You'd probably faint dead away if I told you who is handling everything except the music for the recital--which I guess is now a recital-concert--and Luke's exhibition. It's Millie Willingham."

"Holy shit!" Paula exclaimed. "And Smith thinks his letter might not get past the principal. I bet Millie will roast Gray's ass if she thinks he's playing it safe!" she laughed.

"See you in the morning with a ton of music," I said to Paula as she headed back to class.

After I left Paula, I went by Mom's room and told her Gabrielle had asked that I have supper with her and the kids and talk afterward. She said, "Good luck!" I then went to the art room to check on Luke. When I got there he was still talking with Mr. Stephenson who waved me into his office, a glass enclosure in one corner of the art room.

"Luke was just telling me St. Mary's has agreed to host your recital and his exhibition. I think that is a great idea. Says Millie Willingham is determined to make it the cultural event of the century. I hope you guys can pull it off."

"Well, if they can get permission to participate, the Mixed Chorus and Symphonic Brass and Percussion will also be part of the gala event. It might well be a cultural event Concord has never seen before."

"Luke also requested that his class be transferred into an independent study so he could skip class and work independently for the show. I have no problem with that and have given him a letter to that effect to take to the counselor's office. If she approves, it's ok by me. Also understand that he is taking the AP art exam. I should have thought of that, but I don't know a great deal about AP and certainly not as much as your mother and father know, Matt,"

"Luke, do you want to take care of that now? We have time to go by the counselor's office and sign up for the additional AP exams and get your class changed before we need to go by St. Mary's and confirm the date."


We left the art room and Luke grabbed my hand before he realized where we were. "Man, you've got to watch that!" I said as we headed to the counselor's office.

Ms. Norman was the senior counselor and was often hard to find, but today she was in her office on the phone telling some parent about a student who wouldn't be graduating unless he got all his back work made up in the next week. She motioned for us to come on in the office. "No, there is no slack left. He has made contract after contract to get work done and he still is not doing it... No, there is no way he can graduate without the credits for the courses in which he is behind and failing... No, he's behind and failing because he has cut so many classes... Well, you should have known about his failing and his cutting classes because I have sent you two registered letters... I'm sorry if he got them and didn't let you see them, I hope he was disciplined for that... I understand he's a senior, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be disciplined for tampering with the mail. That's a federal crime you know... You have also had calls from his teachers and two from me... Certainly you may make an appointment with Mr. Gray and speak to the school board if you wish, but it will not change the graduation requirements... Please do, but I have done all I can do and now it's up to him... Goodbye."

As she hung up the phone, Ms. Norman said, "I'll kill both of you if you say I said it, but that was the mother of one of the jokers who abused Gregory and, so far as I am concerned, got away with it. Now she thinks he can get away with cutting classes and failing. All she wants is to see him walk at graduation. Kids aren't the problems; parents are. Well, now that I got that out of my craw, what can I do for you two. You're not having problems graduating are you?" she laughed.

Luke explained what he wanted to do and she immediately signed the form and made the change in his schedule on the computer. "That takes care of that. You are now a free man last period. Congratulations. I took care of signing you two up for the additional AP exam as soon as I thought about it. I'm glad your mom asked you about it Matt since I had forgotten to tell you two I had taken the liberty. You score high enough on the AP exams you take this year and with the AP exams you two made 4s and 5s on last year will mean you're almost college sophomores the day you enter. And Luke, I don't want to be nosey, but I do hope whatever caused you to try to destroy yourself is no longer a problem."

"To tell the truth, Ms. Norman, it never was a problem, but I didn't know that and it just ate away at me until I couldn't see any other way out. I realize now that even if the problem had been what I thought it was, suicide was not an answer. But, thanks, I couldn't be better."

"That's good to know. By the way, I was looking at the SAT scores for you both today. It seems Independence has a tie for star student this year--you two. Good thing Michael Andrews and your sister aren't seniors or it would have been a four way tie. All four of you missed a perfect score by only two points. That is amazing, especially since they are only sophomores. I was surprised when they asked to take it instead of the PSAT. "

"I guess it just runs in the family," I laughed.

"Must be some family is all I can say. I seriously doubt if I called about one of you cutting class I'd hear excuses from Andrews, Greywolf or Larsen!"

"You'd probably hear the echo of a hand on a bare butt!" Luke laughed.

"When was the last time you had a hand laid on your bare butt, Luke Larsen?"

"It's been awhile. I think Dad stopped giving me spanking, some folks would call them butt whopping, after I turned thirteen. Matt never got a swat from Mr. or Mrs. Greywolf and we thought they'd never do it, but once Michael kept torturing a cat and Mrs. Greywolf yanked his shorts down and swatted him one on his bare bottom. I think he must have been about five or six at the time. It was the first and only time she did that anyone although she did threaten to do it to him in class when he was acting up during the time his mom was dying."

"I was really worried about him for a while there, but he surely has turned out to be a great kid. You all are. So where are you off to now that both of you have your freedom?"

"We're on our way to St. Mary's to confirm the date for Matt's recital and my exhibition. If all goes well, it will be a big event because the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion will be performing with Matt."

"That will, indeed, be a special event. I'll look forward to it. When is it?"

"It will be at five on Sunday, May 21," Matt said.

Ms. Norman made a note on her calendar and said, "I'll be there. You can count on it."

We said goodbye and left. When we got to St. Mary's we told Gertie the date was fine and about the possibility that the chorus and ensemble would be performing as well. "It depends on getting a permission letter approved by Mr. Gray. As soon as Mr Gray approves, Mr. Smith is submitting it to the superintendent and chairman of the school board, but we need fast action since there's a lot of music to prepare and it will all have to be done by students," I advised her. I also told her that I would eliminate the Evening Prayer part of the recital if permission to include it wasn't given--provided Fr. Tom approved.

"Well, tonight's bridge night and if Millie hasn't heard from the principal by then, I'm sure he'll hear from her in the morning. I'm sure we'd all like to have Evening Prayer included, but if permission is not given, I don't think Fr. Tom will object. He'll understand. So what else are you two up to?"

Luke told her we were talking to Gabrielle tonight and she hugged us both and said, "You'll be in my thoughts and prayers. Millie's too. She told me Luke had told her about you two. You couldn't have a better friend on your side. She kept talking about Luke when she called me last night. Of course she has always thought Matt hung the moon if for no other reason than because he can make that organ Frank insisted on putting in St. Mary's behave. Luke, he fought the Flentrop company tooth and toenail because they didn't want to put all that organ in St. Mary's, but they finally relented and built one almost as large as Frank wanted. Before Matt came along the congregation needed seatbelts because the organists we had insisted on opening her up all the way every Sunday. Well, guys, you need to run along and steel yourselves for tonight." Gertie hugged each of us again and followed us to the door.

When we got to Luke's place Gabrielle's car was not there so I drove on to the river bridge, pulled off and we walked across the meadow to the falls. While we had only three kisses all day, there was not a lot of heavy making out. In fact, we just sat close together, Luke's head on my shoulder, my arms around him. We didn't even talk. Finally it was time to go. When we stood up, Luke took my face in his hands, put his forehead against mine and said, "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, I love you beyond all measure," and kissed me with a slow, tender, gentle kiss.

"Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, I love you more than life itself," and returned his kiss in kind.

When we emerged from the cane brake Gabrielle's car was at home. Nonetheless, we walked across the meadow to the Jeep, arm in arm. I dropped Luke off at home and went on home after telling Luke I would be at his place about 6:30. That gave me a couple hours to do school work.

Actually, it took me less than half an hour to get all my assignments done. When I finished, I looked at what I had sketched out for the recital and thought about changes that would be made if 1) the permissions worked and Evening Prayer could be included and 2) what would be left if Evening Prayer had to be eliminated. I could certainly understand why Evening Prayer might have to go by the boards and I knew that Fr. Tom would not put a block in the way of the two groups performing if that happened.

When I was in the midst of thinking through what I would do in each case, I heard Mom and Dad arrive. "Matt, could you come down," Dad called. Mom and Dad were in the library looking very like cats which had eaten the canary. "Just what did you do to upset applecarts at school today?" Dad asked.

"Absolutely nothing that I can think of. I mean once Luke did grab me and drag me into a stairwell and give me a quick kiss, but I know that was unobserved. Other than that, I got a date for the prom no strings attached, talked with Paula and Eugene about the chorus and ensemble performing at my recital and met with Mr. Smith. Nothing really."

"Are you sure," Mom asked, trying to hide the fact that she was about to burst out laughing.

"That's it."

"Well, I saw Mr. Smith coming out of Mr. Gray's office laughing like he was crazy. As he passed me he said, 'Your son did what I've never been able to do. He got Gray's ass in high gear,' and went on down the hall, laughing like mad. So what was your meeting with Mr. Smith about? Don't you think that your meeting might have something to do with his laughing about Mr. Gray?"

"Well, I don't know." I then told my parents about the meeting with Mr. Smith and what Paula, Eugene and I had proposed in regard to my recital and that Mr. Smith agreed provided we could get a permission letter for parents approved by the superintendent and the school board.

"Well, did Mr. Smith have any concern about that?" Mom asked.

"Only that Mr. Gray might not approve it or would delay in approving it so it could be sent to the superintendent and school board chairman."

"Where did you go when you left school?" Dad asked.

"Luke and I went by St. Mary's to tell Fr. Tom that the date was fine. He wasn't there so we left a message with Gertie."

"And you didn't tell Gertie about the possible change in the program?" Mom inquired.

"Yea, but I also said it wasn't certain because we had to wait until Mr. Gray got around to approving it and that Mr. Smith was sending copies of the letter, if Mr Gray approved it, to the chairman of the school board and the superintendent, that's all."

"And do you have any idea what Gertie did before you got out the office door?" Dad asked.

"Why would I?"

"Guess you don't keep up with who's who in the school system. Don't you know who the chairman of the school board is?" Dad asked.

"No, I guess I don't."

"Millie Willingham. And you do know who her best friend and bridge partner is, right?"

I suddenly saw the picture and burst out laughing. "Well, I guess I know why Mr. Gray got in a rush!"

"Well, I don't know what Millie will do. She's very firm in her belief in separation of church and state, but I see no reason why, with parental support and permission and the clear disclaimer in the program, the program can't go on with Evening Prayer, but I'm equally sure Fr. Tom will not prevent a performance by the chorus and ensemble if the decision is to eliminate it," Dad said. "Now is guess it's time for you to get to the Larsen's. I hope it's not too painful, Son."

"I feel the same, Matthew," Mom added.

"I do too. I'll be back when it's over.

When I reached Luke's house, he came out to meet me. Just before we went inside, he put his arms around me and gave me a quick kiss. "Babe, I am sorry you have to go through this."

"Luke, WE are going through this. This is about us, it's not just about you. I have to be here and I am glad I am."

Luke embraced me again and gave me another quick kiss before we went in.

"Matt, it's good to see you. Welcome."

"I am always, right Gabrielle? How was your weekend at the lake?"

"Perfect, absolutely perfect. For the first time in months I didn't give any of you kids a moment's thought. It was supposed to be a get-away and it certainly was. And thanks for the champagne. Well, we're ready for supper if you are ready."

"Gabrielle, I am always ready for food at your table!"

Supper, which I expected to be tense, was very relaxed and delightful. Needless to say, the food was fabulous. We talked about school, especially about St. Mary's hosting Luke's exhibition as well as my recital. Gabrielle was really pleased that the exhibition would be in a good location. We also told her Millie Willingham had taken charge of publicity, the program for the recital and the catalog for the exhibition and arrangements for a reception.

"Well, you can be sure it will be a major production with Millie in charge and everyone who is anyone will be there!"

As we continued to talk about school, Mary Kathryn told Gabrielle about Luke's date for the prom. I almost choked on a mouthful of food when she started, fearing she would say too much. Gabrielle seemed to see nothing strange in Mary Kathryn's interest in finding a way to get a nice prom dress for Paula.

When we finished supper and cleared the table, Mary Kathryn said she had school work to do and went upstairs. As Mary Kathryn left the room, Gabrielle turned to Luke and said, "Son, you and Matt wanted to talk to me? Let's go to the den.

When we reached the den, Luke sat in a large chair facing his mother on the sofa. Without thinking, I sat on the floor between Luke's legs. "Matt, wouldn't you like to sit in a chair?"

"Thanks, I'm fine right here, Gabrielle."

"Ok, what are we to talk about?"

"Gabrielle, the day Luke tried to commit suicide, I came here to change clothes because I had dived into the river fully dressed. I don't know whether you noticed or not, but instead of getting some of my clothes out of the closet, I put on those Luke had left folded on the river bank." I then told her of how I had found the letter from Luke addressed to me. "I'd like for you to read that letter before we talk." I handed Gabrielle the letter.

As she took the letter she looked at Luke and asked, "Luke, will this letter tell me why you attempted to take your life?" Luke nodded.

Gabrielle looked at Luke for what seemed a very long time then slowly opened the letter and began to read. From time to time she looked up, first at Luke, then at me. When she finished the letter she was silent for what seemed like hours, but was hardly a minute. She then let out a great sigh and said, "I am so glad we can all be open about what we have been hiding--at least what we thought we were hiding from each other. Luke, I have suspected your feelings toward Matt were more than friendship, as deep as your friendship was and is. For some time now--maybe a year or more--I have seen you looking at Matt with a great deal more than friendship in your eyes. Matt, I must admit that I saw the same thing from you. Not only because of the church's teachings, but also because of the heartache and pain that a ga... ga... gay couple have, I kept praying it was just a phase and that you would get over it. I kept hoping that one or both of you would fall in love with some girl and it would all be over. Luke, I knew in my heart that your attempt to kill yourself was in some way or other connected with your being in love with Matt."

I was surprised that Gabrielle had figured out Luke and I were in love with each other before we knew it. Michael had figured it out after he read Luke's journal, but Gabrielle had nothing to go on other than what? Her instincts as a mother? Her sensitivity to looks of love? What? I don't know, but she surely had figured it out and had kept quiet about it, hoping it would just go away. Well, it didn't and it hasn't.

Luke had loosen my hair and was stroking it, "Mom, had Matt not found that letter, I would not be alive today." Luke then told Gabrielle how I had spent every night by his bed, talking, praying, pleading. "Dr. Walker was right. I was not conscious, in a coma, but I knew Matt was there and that he loved me. I was in a place being dragged into nothingness, blackness, death because that was what I wanted, then I felt Matt's presence and heard is voice and his expressions of his love for me and his pleading for me to come back. I fought and fought and fought against death and because Matt was there night after night, I survived and am alive. I love Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf more than I can tell him, much less you."

"And, Gabrielle, I love Luke Hans Larsen more than life itself."

"Matt, Luke, anticipating this conversation--at least I hoped that you would come to me since I would never have mentioned my suspicions to you--I went to see Fr. O'Brian a couple weeks ago. I knew I couldn't talk to Fr. Muller, not only because of his insensitivity the night you lay near death, Luke, but also because he is so rigid in his views. I asked Fr. O'Brian about what the church taught about... about... "

"Mom, we're gay if you want a label, but just look at it as two men very much in love with each other."

"Anyway, he gave me a book for parents of gay children which I have read carefully. The church has recently said that children are who are gay are, well, gay rather than having chosen a lifestyle."

"I certainly didn't choose to be gay or not gay," I said, "I just have known I loved Luke more than a friend for as long as I can remember. If you had asked me if I were gay, I probably would have said 'no'. I don't know. I hadn't thought about that. All I knew was that I loved Luke and was afraid to tell him."

"I guess I inherited those German genes which call a spade a spade. I knew I was gay because I was in love with a man. But I didn't choose to be gay and I certainly didn't choose a lifestyle. I chose death because I didn't think I could ever be who I was and wanted to be, Luke Larsen madly in love with Matthew Greywolf and loved by him."

"Well, Luke, Fr. O'Brian pointed out that the American Bishops have issued a statement which recognizes that being gay is not something one chooses, but something one is. Their admonition to parents is to love and support their gay children rather than abandoning them or turning them out of the house. You know that you are my beloved man child and I have told you and I meant it then and I mean it now, that will not change regardless. However, you cannot receive the Blessed Sacrament unless you are celibate. Do you know that? Did you receive the Sacrament yesterday?"

"Are you asking if I am celibate? If you are, the answer at the moment is 'Yes, I am.' And I did receive the Sacrament yesterday, twice in fact. If you are asking if I intend to remain celibate, the answer is 'No, I do not.' Greywolf... "

"Greywolf knows about you and Matt?"

"Mom, I think half the world knows. It all started just after I had been taken to ICU. Matt, perhaps you'd better tell Mom why so many people know."

"Gabrielle, when I found Luke's letter and read it, I almost fainted. Dr. Bailey and David were with me. David carried me into her office and when they asked what was wrong, I showed them the letter. Then Dr. Walker came down and said that Luke should live, but he was willing himself to death. Dr. Bailey told him why Luke had attempted to kill himself and why he was willing himself to death. They agreed that if I would try to talk to Luke he might be able to hear me. I spent every night at Luke's bedside, talking, praying, pleading until he regained consciousness. In the course of that, Chelsea and Gladys, the ICU nurses figured out what was going on between us and so they know. I told Mom and Dad because they needed to know why I was spending every night at the hospital. Michael knew of Luke's love for me before I did because he read an entry in Luke's journal Luke had accidentally left open on his computer. Gertie and Fr. Tom know. I told Fr. Tom and Gertie figured it out on her own when I came to St. Mary's half dead day after day."

"This has to be the exception to the rule that to keep a secret you can only tell two people if both are dead," Gabrielle smiled. "Anyone else in the county who knows? How about Mary Kathryn?"

"Mary Kathryn has known almost from the beginning. It was something that she needed to know," Luke said.

"Good going, Luke," I thought.

"And," Luke continued, "Millie Willingham knows. Yesterday Matt and I went to her home to discuss the recital and exhibition and she just flat out asked if we weren't more than best friends and before I thought I said 'Yes.' She just said she hoped we would be as happy as her son Jason."

"I guess a mother is the last one to know... Not really true since this mother was sure she knew. So, how did the Greywolfs take this announcement?"

"Both said they wished we had a choice and would have chosen to marry and raise great grand kids, but since they knew we had no choice, we have their support and, yes, their blessing."

"And Greywolf is the reason I am still celibate, as difficult as it has been. He asked that we not have sex until we are eighteen; he asked us or rather said he would like for us to wait. He didn't tell us. Out of respect for him and the support he and Yong Jin have given us, we intend to respect that request. But I'll be honest with you, Mom, I don't expect to be a virgin very long after I'm eighteen."

"Which brings us back to the position of the church. Luke, will you live a lie by receiving the Blessed Sacrament while you are having sex with another man?"

"You mean when I am having sex with Matt? No, I don't intend to live a lie. I told you I received the Sacrament twice yesterday. Since I knew Fr. Muller would check up on me after my confession, I went to Mass at Immaculate Conception at 9:15 then walked to St. Mary's. I sat with David and Michael, who had decided to go to St. Mary's because Fr. Tom doesn't gay bash, Dr. Bailey--who may well be Mrs. David Andrews before long...."

"It seems love is bursting out all over and I was only aware of you and Matt."

"And you don't know all of it yet," I thought with a chuckle.

"And of course the Greywolfs. Mom, they all knew I was gay, and they all accepted me for who and what I was. I felt loved and at home there. I can never feel that way at Immaculate Conception where me and my love are not only not accepted, but where my deep, deep love condemns me. So I may be damned for not being a true Catholic, but I will not give up worshiping my God who created me and Matt as we are and who, I believe, has given us true love for each other. Fr. Tom has assured me that there are people at St. Mary's who would condemn us and our love, but neither he nor the church will and I will be welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament even when I am no longer a virgin."

"Matt, Luke, I do not claim to understand how or why two men love each other. I can accept the fact that it happens. I, as your parents Matt, wish you two would have fallen in love with two beautiful women, married and given us loads of grand children. I wish with all my heart that was the way it would have been. But it is not. I can accept that. I don't understand it. I don't approve of it, but I don't have the right to approve or disapprove so I guess I will just say I hope you keep your expression of affection low-key around me until I can get used to the idea....

I started to get up, but Luke placed his hands on my chest and held me where I was.

"I mean, don't shock me too much. Let me gradually get used to the idea that you two are going to express your love as Jens and I do...."

"Actually, we may do a better job of it Mom, but we will respect your wishes about expressing affection here."

Gabrielle smiled. "Now we get to the really difficult part."

"Yea, how and when to tell Dad. Mom, I wasn't afraid to tell you. I suspected you knew already especially since you saw me kiss Matt in the middle of the meadow...."

"So you figured that out, did you?"

"Yea, with the help of Mary Kathryn. But Mom, if you'll pardon the expression, I am scared shitless when I think of telling Dad. I don't know what he will do, but I know he will not take it the way you or the Greywolfs have. I am even afraid he might be violent. I have seen his temper and although he has never been violent with the family, I think it is possible that he might be to me this time."

"I wish I could reassure you, Luke, but I am afraid as well. I know Jens loves you very much, even though he seldom shows it, but I also know he can be--is--often very rigid and especially when it comes to what he perceives as the teaching of the church. I can live with you as an Episcopalian; you are an adult and should be free to make your own decision. Besides, the

Catholic church would deny you her Sacraments and damn you to hell. I don't believe that. I can't believe that love can condemn, but I'm not at all sure Jens could ever come around to accepting you and Matt as lovers or even you as a non-Catholic. I could try to talk with him...."

"Mom, I am very tired of hiding from you and Dad and so long as I hide my love of Matt from Dad, I am also hiding me. And I don't think it is your place to try to run interference for me. I just need your help in how I go about telling him and when, and the sooner the better I believe."

"Luke, I agree that you should tell him. If I told him he would see that as your hiding behind me and/or being ashamed to face him and I know that is not true. I do think you need to tell him soon because putting it off will only make things worse. He will react no differently a month from now than he will tomorrow and the longer you put it off, the more pressure and stress you and Matt are placing on yourselves."

"You think we should tell him tomorrow?"

"No, because he will just be getting back from Jackson and will be worn out. I'd suggest that you talk with him Wednesday night and get it over with, whatever it is."

"Mom, David has offered to be with us and I have always assumed that Matt would be with me when we told you and Dad when we talk to him. David is probably more frightened than I because he had a gay brother who was beaten and thrown out of the house when he told his parents. David didn't see him for a very long time. Knowing he would never be welcome at home, he went by the school to see David. When David's father found out, he beat David so badly that he had to be hospitalized. David has never seen or heard from him since. For that reason, and knowing Dad's temper, David almost insists on being with us."

"I think David is over-reacting. I can't imagine Jens becoming angry enough to harm you. You may need to stay with Matt a few days...."

"That's been ruled out, Gabrielle, as much as I would like it. We know we have a hard time getting what we have to do for school done. Luke is going to take the AP exam in art as well as the three for which he has classes and I will take one in music. So we have AP exams, a recital and an exhibition as well as regular school work. Your man-child just takes my mind off of most everything except him. But David told us both before my parents knew that if we needed a home, we had one with him."

"Matt, that's kinda amazing and mature, and, Luke, you may have to take David up on his offer for a few days until Jens cools down, but probably not. Matt, would you like to have Greywolf with you? That would make it kinda 'men of the family' meeting."

"I hadn't thought about it, but, yes, I would."

"Mom, just in case, I'm going to get some of my things tomorrow and put them in Matt's Jeep. I have clothes at Matt's but there are some things I want or need. If all goes as well as I wish it would, then they'll come back in when Matt leaves. If things go as I fear, I won't have to come back until it's ok."

"Luke, I want you to know that with all the 'I wishes' I have and all the 'I wish it weren'ts, I still love you as I always have and always will. Nothing is going to change that. And Matt, if my beloved man-child is to love another man, I cannot imagine someone I would rather he love than you. If you two are going to love a man, you are both very, very lucky and blessed with the man you love."

Luke and I both got up and embraced Gabrielle. We all had tears in our eyes. Mine, and I was sure Luke's, were tears of joy and of love for Gabrielle. Hers were, I hoped and believed, tears for our love--even though she did not understand it, she accepted and loved us for who we were.

As Luke and I walked out of the front door, the porch light was turned off and the darkness gave us privacy for our goodnights.

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